Sheltering in place means we’re working, socializing, and eating at home more than ever. But all that snacking and cooking can lead to more food waste, which can attract pests like rodents and insects—even if you haven’t previously seen them in or around your home.
“The pests that are more out in force during the pandemic outbreak are those pests that have depended on commercial food waste, which has now disappeared,” says Bobby Corrigan, an urban pest specialist. “Mostly, this means rodents.”
While you’re unlikely to see your very own pizza rat hustling down your stairs, your home may be at risk of attracting a pest or two. Here’s a few tips from the experts on how to keep those pesky pests out while you’re quarantining at home.
1. Check your groceries
With so many people abiding by stay-at-home orders, home grocery deliveries are the new norm. But with those deliveries can come an extra item you did not order.
“In addition to rodents, food deliveries can also attract hungry ants and squirrels,” says Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. “These pests are capable of getting into a delivery box or bag left outside, so it’s important to inspect food items before bringing them inside.”
Mannes says pests such as rodents have been known to chew through cardboard boxes in search of food, so a grocery delivery left on the front porch can be a perfect target.
“Additionally, cardboard can provide an ideal harborage site for pests like cockroaches, especially if it gets wet, so properly discarding delivery boxes is crucial,” she adds.
2. Prepare for fur baby houseguests
With so many colleges and universities switching to virtual instruction, many students have suddenly moved back home with their parents, bringing along their significant others—pets.
“Pets like dogs are great companions during these times, but they can also inadvertently attract pests,” says Mannes. “Uneaten pet food can entice ants and cockroaches, while pests like ticks can hitch a ride inside on our furry friends after a walk.”
New “pawrents” should prepare to clean up pet food immediately to ward off pests.
3. Follow the snack trail
While schools are closed, learning is happening at home, which means your kids’ new favorite hangout is likely in the kitchen by the snack pantry. Or maybe they’re squirreling away food in their bedrooms.
“Perhaps one of the biggest adjustments for families right now is having children at home almost all of the time,” says Mannes. “Many of the common snack foods that kids enjoy are high in things like sugar, protein, and fat, which are very appetizing to pests like ants. Promptly cleaning up spills and crumbs is an essential part of pest prevention, especially now.”
In the evening, check play areas, bedrooms, living rooms, and anywhere your kids go to clean up any left-behind snacks, cups, or dishes.
4. Open the hood of your car
You love your car, but so do squirrels and mice, who can take up residence under the hood of your car and do all kinds of damage.
“Vehicles that are normally moved daily have been parked in the same spot for weeks,” says Mike Deutsch, an urban entomologist with Arrow Exterminating Co. in New York. “Rats will investigate and may even establish harborage sites under the hood or even inside stationary vehicles. Rats may gnaw on engine components like ignition wiring, causing damage.”
5. Focus on hygiene
Cleanliness is next to godliness, the saying goes. And in your home, that proverb especially holds true. When trying to prevent pests from taking over, keeping things tidy and clean is essential.
“Eliminate garbage, pet foods, and plant wastes. Empty birdbaths. Reinforce pipes around drains,” says Michael Parsons, a visiting research scholar at Fordham University in Bronx, NY. “Don’t leave a drop of water on your property available for rats. Can you smell food in and around your home? If you can, they can.”
6. Close potential entryways
To keep pests out, there are some minor maintenance issues to tackle.
“The most important thing to do is to check the bases of all doors, especially garage doors,” says Corrigan. “If you can roll a yellow pencil below any door, that space will allow mice easy entry. Ordinary vinyl weather stripping will keep out drafts, but not rodents.”
He says to keep rodents out, use pest brushes or anti-rodent sweeps ($49, Home Depot). Bonus: When you pest-proof doors and gaps, you are weatherproofing at the same time, which is good for health and energy efficiency.
Or homeowners can leave it to the experts. Shop around to find pest control companies and/or wildlife control companies in your area that also offer pest-proofing services.
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